Research ArticlePHYSICS

Energy penetration into arrays of aligned nanowires irradiated with relativistic intensities: Scaling to terabar pressures

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Science Advances  11 Jan 2017:
Vol. 3, no. 1, e1601558
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1601558


Ultrahigh-energy density (UHED) matter, characterized by energy densities >1 × 108 J cm−3 and pressures greater than a gigabar, is encountered in the center of stars and inertial confinement fusion capsules driven by the world’s largest lasers. Similar conditions can be obtained with compact, ultrahigh contrast, femtosecond lasers focused to relativistic intensities onto targets composed of aligned nanowire arrays. We report the measurement of the key physical process in determining the energy density deposited in high-aspect-ratio nanowire array plasmas: the energy penetration. By monitoring the x-ray emission from buried Co tracer segments in Ni nanowire arrays irradiated at an intensity of 4 × 1019 W cm−2, we demonstrate energy penetration depths of several micrometers, leading to UHED plasmas of that size. Relativistic three-dimensional particle-in-cell simulations, validated by these measurements, predict that irradiation of nanostructures at intensities of >1 × 1022 W cm−2 will lead to a virtually unexplored extreme UHED plasma regime characterized by energy densities in excess of 8 × 1010 J cm−3, equivalent to a pressure of 0.35 Tbar.

  • Laser matter interaction
  • relativistic plasmas
  • ultra-high energy density matter
  • ultra-high energy density plasmas

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

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